The relatives of the Louginisland killings were on the radio this morning and they seemed really pleased that yesterday the Republic of Ireland team wore black armbands to commemorate those shot dead while watching the Ireland-Italy game in 1994. It seems poor recompense for the loss of a loved one but they seemed genuinely moved by the gesture. There are already critics online saying the FAI is being selective in its choice of victims to remember but that’s balderdash. The fact is these people were totally innocent and were killed while watching an Ireland-Italy game on 18 June 1994. Yesterday was 18 June 2012.
It’s worth asking, though, why these six people were killed. A couple of days earlier, the INLA shot dead three UVF men on the Shankill Road. On 17 June 1994, the UVF retaliated by shooting dead a Catholic taxi driver in Carrickfergus and two Protestant civilians in Newtownabbey, under the impression they were Catholics. The Loughinisland massacre on 18 June was another part of the UVF retaliation.
Now you’ll no doubt have noticed the difference between the INLA killings and the UVF killings: the INLA shot dead members of the UVF, the UVF shot dead people who were (or they thought were) Catholics. All killing is terrible but it’s not hard to see which group’s killing is the more heinous. And that kind of killing was, broadly speaking, UVF and UDA strategy: they’d kill so many Catholics, the nationalist and republican population would be terrified and put pressure on the IRA to cease operating.
It’s a shameful but by no means unique strategy. When Harry Truman gave the OK for bombing Hiroshima and Nagasaki, he knew tens of thousands of innocent Japanese would die but he went ahead, arguing that it brought the war to a speedier conclusion. Likewise, the British bombing of German cities such as Dresden, where at least 25,000 civilians died. Likewise US drone attacks on Pakistan, still happening and often aimed directly at mourners and funerals, have led to the death of hundreds of innocent civilians, including children.
So there’s no point in saying the UVF or the UDA were uniquely cruel in their targeting of innocent Catholics. They were doing what Americans and British authorities have been doing for decades: taking innocent human life as a way of achieving military goals.
Not that such a fact makes Loughinisland any less disgusting morally. But there’s a lot of it about, a point maybe worth keeping in mind when next you hear people express their loathing for the killing of Mountbatten or the Omagh bomb. If you’re busy killing innocent civilians yourself, spare the rest of us the hypocrisy.